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the sweet scoop
It was another thrilling year for the New York City dining scene, and last night, Time Out New York held their annual industry awards honoring the best new restaurants, bars and chefs. “It’s been an incredibly exciting year for food and drink,” shares Mari Uyehara, TONY’s Food & Drink editor. “Sensational new restaurants opened on Madison Avenue and in the West Village, but also in Bushwick, Flushing and Red Hook. It also brought national superstars, celebrated cookbook authors and daring upstarts to town. Our roster of winners reflects the astonishing range of drinking and dining experiences in New York City right now.”
Taking over the spacious Stephen Weiss Studio, the 2013 Food & Drink Awards paid tribute to the city’s culinary finest in a grand celebration attended by top toques, restauranteurs, mixologists and industry insiders. Before the winners were announced, guests sampled bites from nominated spots, including L’Apicio, Pork Slope, Dear Bushwick and Gran Electrica, and sipped prosecco, Stella Artois and Frederick Wildman cocktails—all while eagerly anticipating the results.
TONY’s food-obsessed readers voted for their faves out of 40 nominees to determine ten winners in the Readers’ Choice categories—top honors included Best New Restaurant (The NoMad), Chef of the Year (Daniel Humm), Best New Italian Spot (Perla), Best New Cocktail Bar (Pouring Ribbons) and Best New Bakery (Ovenly). Additionally, ten Critics’ Picks were presented, in aptly named categories ranging from Best Big-Pimp’ Brooklyn (Blanca) and The New Nordic Wonder (Aska), to The Same Same But Different Award (Pok Pok NY) and The High Rolling Stoner Sushi Award (Chez Sardine). You can check out the full list of this year’s winners here.
Many congrats to all the winners and nominees!
On Tuesday, the Village Voice’s sixth annual Choice Eats tasting event took over the 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue. The highly anticipated affair featured Voice food critic Robert Sietsema’s culinary favorites from more than 50 handpicked restaurants spanning the five boroughs, along with beverage pairings from craft beer, wine and spirits producers.
As if all this wasn’t enough, VIP guests were invited inside a full hour before general admission for a live culinary demo from City Grit’s Sarah McSimmons and offerings from a dozen local restos including Pig and Khao, Qi Thai Grill and Exchange Alley. VIPs also indulged in the exclusive “Choice Sweets” dessert lounge featuring confections from Butter Lane, Grandaisy Bakery, Ovenly, and more.
A few of the night’s many standouts included Anella’s velvety handmade burrata with tomato jam and basil salt, fresh seasoned shrimp rolls from both Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound, tangy buffalo chicken balls from The Meatball Shop, Porchetta’s savory crackling-topped pork crostini, John Brown Smokehouse’s succulent pastrami sliders with sweet ‘n’ tangy slaw, moist red velvet squares from Carlo’s Bakery, and perfectly indulgent fudge brownies from Robicelli’s. A selection of suds from Blue Point Brewing Company, Lagunitas and Stella Artois, along with creative cocktails mixed with Sidney Frank spirits and Prairie Organic Vodka, helped wash it all down.
Whether you prefer savory, sweet, spicy, ethnic, Americana, inventive, classic, vegetarian or carnivorous, Choice Eats aims to please any palate. And with a surprisingly reasonable ticket price point, the bang-for-your-buck appeal is just another reason to attend the eating extravaganza next year.
Manhattan-based restaurateur Taavo Somer set across the river to open his first solo venture, Isa (meaning “father” in Estonian) in Williamsburg. The gorgeous space feels like an airy, modern barn with a large hearth, exposed kitchen, a wall of logs for the wood-burning stove and doors opening to the street. In a style called “primitive modernism,” chef Ignacio Mattos (formerly of Il Buco) executes rustic, seasonal fare with produce hailing from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
The printed daily menu only featured about a dozen dishes (the eatery was still in its soft-launch phase) with minimal descriptions, yet no detail seemed overlooked. Even the trio of freshly baked bread came alongside soft butter dusted with peppercorns and fennel seeds. A start of peppery horseradish shavings awakened our palate and added sharpness to coins of pickled daikon and kombu ribbons, while our Treviso salad tossed with creamy nut cheese and pistachio granola was a much milder appetizer. Adventurous eaters can get their hands dirty with cylinders of chewy, fat-laden pig’s tail glazed with chili and garlic (intended to be eaten sans silverware) or try to brave the sardine. Two large, meaty filets sitting in olive oil surround the fish’s crisped full skeleton and head—all meant for nibbling. On the refined side, our delicate cod filet performed beautifully when accompanied with silken cauliflower puree, fresh dill flowers and a dollop of tart orange confit. To finish, we blissfully spooned smoked yolk (which came cradled in an egg shell) over sliced rib eye and sweet glazed carrots.
At the time, Isa was BYO (waiting for their liquor license) and cash only, but the knowledgable staff affirmed that change was on the horizon. The vibe here is approachable and friendly, a warm neighborhood spot that I look forward to cozying up to again.
After a successful two year stint as chef de cuisine at Manhattan’s Mercadito Cantina, Ivan Garcia headed across the river to open up his first restaurant—Mesa Coyoacan in Williamsburg. Named for the area of Mexico City where he grew up, this authentic Mexican cocina honors the region’s culinary classics with time-honored recipes handed down by Garcia’s grandmother.
The restaurant’s industrial-looking Graham Avenue facade disguises a warm inviting interior that features dim filament light fixtures, a seating medley of cozy booths, high-tops and communal tables, and pop music bouncing off the walls. On the night of our visit, patrons packed into the bustling bar area to sip fresh fruit sangria and margaritas made with house-infused tequilas.
With a focus on organic ingredients and quality proteins, the menu offers excellent Mexican fare and street-food staples. There are plenty of healthier choices, including my ceviche of tender octopus, grilled corn, avocado, pico de gallo and orange slices in a spicy jalapeño citrus infusion, and tiny handmade tortillas (three tacos to an order) topped with spit-grilled chunks of marinated grass-fed beef, chopped onions and cilantro. The roasted organic chicken arrived smothered in a flavorful pipian (traditional Mexican verde sauce) of pumpkin seeds, tomatillo, chiles and zucchini. However, the chiles en nogada entrée—a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with shredded Berkshire pork, pears, apples, peaches and almonds, covered with luscious walnut sauce—was the dinner’s clear high point. The balance of sweet, savory, creamy and nutty was absolutely exquisite.
By delivering high-caliber ethnic eats in a swanky space, Mesa Coyoacan has quickly become a neighborhood hotspot. So grab a date or a group of friends and settle in for some delicious comida that does granny proud.
Williamsburg has seen its fair share of French bistros pop up recently, but Le Barricou charms like no other spot in the neighborhood. Jean-Pierre Marquet’s cozy candlelit haunt has a 19th-century ambiance, with dated newspaper clippings plastered on the walls, an elongated wooden bar and vintage accents scattered throughout the rustic interior. A floor-to-ceiling window facade opens to sidewalk seating on Grand Street and an intimate wine lounge displays antique furnishings and a wood burning fireplace. While the décor may be reminiscent of a classic Parisian parlor, the cuisine is far from old-fashioned with a menu featuring refined French fare.
Chef Joab Masse elegantly showcases locally sourced produce and organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free proteins. The signature Le Barricou salad was served with shaved watermelon and thinly sliced radishes, apples and pears over watercress; sweet honey maple vinaigrette and the hot-flavored flesh of spicy black radishes created a striking flavor contrast that I found addicting. Vegetarian options include light house-made ricotta and wild mushroom stuffed ravioli cradled in delicate tomato, garlic and white wine sauce and creamy seasonal vegetable risotto kissed with truffle oil. The night’s standout entrée was a tender Creekstone Farms Black Angus hanger steak, massaged with garlic confit and caramelized shallot-red wine jus. Reviews were mixed on the hefty grilled Berkshire pork chop, which arrived crusted with thick anchovy tapenade; unfortunately, the too salty taste (I’m admittedly not an anchovy fan) kept me from enjoying the succulent meat, though my dining companion raved about it. I only wish the menu described how prominent anchovies are in the dish.
The bistro’s full bar serves expertly crafted cocktails and exclusively French wines, while the knowledgeable, attentive staff and inviting atmosphere made for a truly delightful dining experience. Merci, Le Barricou.
The Brooklyn Flea is a NY summer staple, with dozens of local artisans, designers and vendors offering antiques, vintage furniture, clothes, jewelry and collectibles, plus delicious fresh food—all in one convenient location. I headed out to Fort Greene yesterday to check it out, and while it was certainly nice to browse the Flea’s offerings, let’s just be honest here—I obviously went for the grub.
When I walked in and saw the sea of food vendors, I realized I was about to experience culinary delights that were far superior than typical flea market fare. There were dozens of people hungrily waiting in lines for some of the best quick eats that Brooklyn has to offer. Pizzamoto offered full coal-fire kissed thin crust pies with fresh mozzarella and basil. Asia Dog’s vegan organic beef hot dogs boasted an impressive variety of inventive Asian-inspired toppings, like kimchi, Asian slaw, peanuts, pork belly and crumbled potato chips. Choncho’s Tacos had delicately fried fresh fish tacos with crisp shredded cabbage and cilantro, drizzled with creamy tartar sauce. And what other flea market food could possibly try to top the utterly decadent lobster roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound?
This lobster was truly the star of the show. The enormous chunks of silken fresh Maine lobster meat were barely dressed with mayo, had a subtle amount of spice, paprika and scallion garnish, and were generously stuffed into a crispy and cushy J.J. Nissen split bun (imported from Maine) that was warm, buttery and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I couldn’t believe something this incredible came from a humble little food tent in the middle of a flea market.
Other food vendors standouts: The Brooklyn Salsa Company’s five varieties of locally-produced salsa (each named and inspired by one of NY’s boroughs), The Good Batch bakery’s adorable line of handmade Dutch stroopwafels, nutty Honey Bear cookies and other baked goodies, and Porchetta’s $5 seriously juicy roast pork sandwiches.
I came. I saw. I ate at the Brooklyn Flea. Check out more eats from the Flea below:
Experience the Brooklyn Flea at one of the two locations:
176 Lafayette Ave (btw. Clermont + Vanderbilt Ave.), Brooklyn, NY 11238
The Flea at One Hanson (aka Williamsburg Savings Bank)
1 Hanson Pl. (at Flatbush Ave.), Brooklyn, NY 11243